Arts for Life: Boosting the Health of Older Adults was held on Friday, March 20, 2015 at the Flat Rock Brook Nature Center in Englewood. Over 20 artists, arts administrators, aging services providers were hosted by the Alliance for Arts and Health New Jersey and Arts for Life of New Jersey in partnership with the Bergen County Division of Cultural Affairs to experience and discuss the benefits of arts participation for older active adults. Through workshops in drumming, poetry, theater and dance, participants experienced first hand the benefits of creating with extraordinary artists/teachers. The group convened at the end to share their various experiences and introduce their own work so connections could be made for future collaborations. This event coincided with a national campaign to reauthorize the Older Americans Act, S. 192. This bill provides opportunities for state and area agencies on aging to increase access to support health promotion services for older individuals. As we know, accessibility to, and active participation in, the arts provides lifelong learning opportunities and increases the quality of life across the lifespan. Community-based cultural programs for older adults reveal positive impacts on maintaining independence and reducing dependency, which appear to also reduce the risk-factors that drive the need for long-term care.
The benefits to these kinds of programs are not only economic. Current research demonstrates that creative arts therapies and artist-directed programs can contribute to the following positive outcomes:
- Reduced length of hospital stays
- Decreased need for multiple medical visits
- Reduced reports of pain and anxiety related to illness and invasive treatment
- Improvements in the quality of life
- Reduced levels of depression and stress
- Decreased need for use of sedatives during medical procedures
- Decreased use of medical interventions
Creative arts therapies and artist-directed programs have the potential to positively impact the healthcare spending concerns, quality of care issues, and healthcare needs of older adults currently facing our nation. An investment in Arts & Health is an investment in New Jersey's health!